« PreviousContinue »
I know the errand of their feet,
I know what mighty work is theirs ;
I can but lift up hands unmeet,
The threshing-floors of God to beat,
And speed them with unworthy prayers.
I will not dream in vain despair
The steps of progress wait for me;
The puny leverage of a hair
The planet's impulse well may spare,
A drop of dew the tided sea.
The loss, if loss there be, is mine,
And yet not mine if understood;
For one shall grasp and one resign,
One drink life's rue, and one its wine,
And God shall make the balance good.
O power to do! O bafied will!
O prayer and action! ye are one;
Who may not strive, may yet fulfil
The harder task of standing still,
And good but wished with God is done!
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE DIFFERENT QUALITIES OF TONE.
TO A SKYLARK. Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher,
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O’er which clouds are brightening,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.
The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of heaven,
In the broad daylight
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight.
Keen are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear,
Until we hardly see, or feel that it is there.
All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.
What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see,
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heedeth not:
Like a high-born maiden
In a palace tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Its aërial hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:
Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves.
Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.
Teach us, sprite or bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
Or triumphant chaunt,
Matched with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt-
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.
What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain ?
What fields, or waves, or mountains ?
What shapes of sky or plain ?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain ?
With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest; þut ne’er knew love's sad satiety.
Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream ?
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever could come near.
Better than all measures
Of delight and sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground !
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.
THE OLD CLOCK ON THE STAIRS.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “L'éternité est une pendale, dont le balancier dit et redit sans cesse ces deux mots seulement, dans le silence des tombeaux: ‘Toujours ! jamais ! Jamais !ujours !""— Jacques Bridaine.
Somewhat back from the village street
Stands the old-fashioned country-seat.
Across its antique portico
Tall poplar trees their shadows throw,
And from the station in the hall
An ancient timepiece says to all, -
• Forever - never !
Never — forever!”
Halfway up the stairs it stands,
And points and beckons with its hands
From its case of massive oak,
Like a monk, who, under his cloak,
Crosses himself, and sighs, alas!
With sorrowful voice to all who pass,-
“ Forever - never!”
Never - forever!"
By day its voice is low and light;
But in the silent dead of night,
Distinct as a passing footstep's fall,
It echoes along the vacant hall,
Along the ceiling, along the floor,
And seems to say, at each chamber-door,-
“Forever - never!
Never - forever!”
Through days of sorrow and of mirth,
Through days of death and days of birth,
Through every swift vicissitude
Of changeful time, unchanged it has stood,
And as if, like God, it all things saw,
It calmly repeats those words of awe,-
“ Forever - never!
Never - forever!”
In that mansion used to be
Free-hearted Hospitality ;
His great fires up the chimney roared ;
The stranger feasted at his board ;
But, like the skeleton at the feast,
That warning timepiece never ceased, -
“Forever never !
Never - forever!”
There groups of merry children played,
There youths and maidens dreaming strayed ;
O precious hours! O golden prime,
And affluence of love and time!
Even as a miser counts his gold,
Those hours the ancient timepiece told, -
• Forever - never!
From that chamber, clothed in white,
The bride came forth on her wedding night.
There, in that silent room below,
The dead lay in his shroud of snow;
And in the hush that followed the prayer,
Was heard the old clock on the stair,-
All are scattered now and fled,
Some are married, some are dead;
And when I ask, with throbs of pain,
si Ah! when shall they all meet again ?”
As in the days long-since gone by,
The ancient timepiece makes reply,-
• Forever-never !
Never - forever !"